How Being Present, Open and Aware Led to the Creation of the World’s Bestselling Board Game


In March, I received a surprise package from my mom. I took it into the den and sat on the couch next to Tom, who was watching “Alice” on TV.

Inside was navy-blue box that looked like a classy coffee-table book. The words “Trivial Pursuit” were emblazoned across the top in cursive metallic gold lettering. Lynn and Laura walked in as I read Mom’s note:

Hi Robbie, (Mom always called me Robbie) I had fun playing this game and thought you’d like it, too. It was invented here in Canada. Love, Mom.

I removed the cellophane wrap and lifted the lid off the box, which gave off that wonderful new-product smell (really, a glue-and-plastic smell.) What distinctive packaging, I thought. Beautiful, elegant, solid.

Trivial Pursuit looked and felt like no other game I’d seen—or played. “Hey, Angel, want to play?” Lynn said, moving toward our new foosball table.

“Huh?” I said, distracted by the box. “Oh. No thanks. Maybe later.”

Lynn and Laura began spinning rods and smacking the balls. On TV, Flo was asking someone or another to kiss her grits. And I was enraptured by the box in my lap.

I opened the gameboard, noticing that it unfolded into a square shape, unlike the gameboards I was familiar with that folded in half. The game pieces were brightly colored pie wedges that nuzzled perfectly into empty slots of the bigger circular pieces. I assumed they were the pawns.

Finally, I slowly opened a smaller box filled with cards. I pulled out the first; it had six questions printed on it.

As I stared at the card, I could feel my heart rate speed up a bit. A foosball landed in my lap, and I barely noticed it, flicking it back to Lynn. The voices at Mel’s Diner faded into the background. I was experiencing one of those otherworldly moments when the universe suddenly focuses a laser beam on a holy grail. My holy grail! I’d print the Pictionary words on cards!

“That’s it!” I yelled, shocking my roommates.

“What’s it?” Lynn and Laura said in unison, stopping their game to look at me. “What?”

“You just yelled, ‘That’s it!’” Tom said, noticing the bewildered look on my face.

My head was spinning. I looked from Tom to Laura to Lynn and back down at the game in my lap. I looked back at Tom again to see if he was seeing what I saw. Nope. Blank stare.

“This is my future!” I said, holding up the game card. “Oh my God, guys—this is it!”

After two long years, the missing link that had been bugging me, taunting me, laughing at me was right there in my hand.

I had always known that the answer would come to me someday; I just didn’t know the when or where. I had to be present, open, and aware enough when it arrived. And here it was: the answer in the form of these stunningly simple, printed cards.

If they could work for Trivial Pursuit, they would work in Pictionary. It was a discovery so overpowering that I had no choice now but to take action.

The next morning, I woke up eager to get started. I could already see Pictionary on a store shelf. It was easy for me to visualize it sitting right there next to Trivial Pursuit.

But it didn’t take long for my brain to start messing with me, and I began to overthink things. I started imagining all of the steps needed to make Pictionary a reality. I’d need to write a business plan, initiate market strategies, secure financing, find partners and suppliers . . . there were a million potential production and distribution issues.

So . . . many . . . steps.

It was all too much to process. I became anxious and overwhelmed. I was so frozen with fear that I was unable to take even one small step forward. And if even if I could, I didn’t have the faintest clue what that first step should be.

Then, to make matters worse, self-doubt crept in and took a stranglehold on me and wouldn’t let go. I’m just a waiter. I can’t do this. Even though I have a college degree, I’m not smart enough. This is way too far out of my comfort zone.

This was the damn self-sabotaging box I’d put myself in. I was so far inside my head I couldn’t find a way out. I was letting my future slip away.

I couldn’t sleep. I could barely eat. I was losing focus at work.

I had to get back on track.

I had to slow my roll. I had to stop over-thinking and quit looking at the big picture. I needed to put myself in a “time-out.”

So, I went for walks. Hung out with friends. Played foosball with Lynn, Laura, and Tom. I did anything but think of Pictionary.

After a few days, I felt calmer and more centered. Rather than let myself slip back into the rabbit hole, I asked myself one simple question: What is the easiest first step I can take to get started and move forward?

What can I wrap my head around and not spin out again?

The answer came to me in this moment of clarity: I’d begin with the words.

Previously published on


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